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May 17, 2022 - 5:03pm

Study finds intersection outside vets cemetery safe but suggests possible changes

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The intersection of Route 77 and Indian Falls Road is deemed safe in that it meets or exceeds all state and national design standards, according to a draft report released this week by the Office of Veterans Affairs.

The latest report is based on data and a study by an independent engineering firm, Larson Design Group.

The location is outside the Western New York National Cemetery, which opened a year-and-a-half ago and where two veterans (Christopher Rowell and Arnold Herdendorf, both of Lockport) were killed in a motor vehicle accident in September of 2021.

Glenn Elliott presented the report at a meeting hosted Monday in Corfu by Rep. Chris Jacobs. Elliott is the environmental director in the office of facility planning, construction and facility management at the VA.

"The draft study concludes that the intersection meets NYSDOT standards for sight distances and the US Federal Highways Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices," Elliott said. "This is the standard used by roadway managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways and private roads open to the public."

He also said, "It finds that the sight distance is at the State Route 77 in Indian Falls Road intersection for greater than design criteria. Concluding sight distances do not propose a safety issue for traffic turning off Indian Falls Road. It concludes neither an all-way stop nor a traffic signal are required for the applicable criteria of METCB. It finds the expected crash frequency not significantly higher than the predicted crash frequency. Therefore safety performance is consistent with what is expected at this intersection. Since November 2020, when the cemetery opened, the crash frequency incident rate did not increase."

And, "The study finds that the expected crash frequency is not significantly higher than predicted crash frequency. Therefore, the safety and performance of the intersection is consistent with what is expected for this type of intersection."

However, because of the interest within the veterans' community in the safety of the intersection, the report reviews seven potential changes to the intersection.

  • Eliminate the existing departure passing zones at the Indian Falls Road intersection.
  • Install a flashing intersection control beacon or alternatively install side-mounted flashing warning devices along Route 77 intersection warning and involves road stops.
  • Install rumble strips on the shoulder and centerline on State Route 77.
  • Eliminate the existing departure and passing zone mentioned earlier.
  • Installed larger right and left stop signs with reflected posts on Indian Falls Road, including placards for cross traffic does not stop at stop pavement markings on Indian Falls Road.
  • Install larger intersection signs on State Route 77.
  • Install a roundabout at the intersection of route 77 and Indian Falls Road.  

None of the possible changes are explicitly recommended though flashing beacons, signage and pavement markings, and a roundabout all score the best when mathematically weighted for effectiveness in reducing accidents.  Roundabouts reduce accidents by 60 percent and fatal accidents by 99 percent.

One suggestion by the study explicitly deemed ineffective is reducing the speed limit approaching the cemetery.

Jacobs said he organized the meeting in order to give community members a chance to review the report and make their own comments about it and potential changes to the intersection. 

"It is clear that more needs to be done to make this intersection safer for our veterans and our families who come to pay respects to our fallen heroes," Jacobs said. "I am committed to working with the veteran community to ensure meaningful changes are made."

For more details and for comments from among those who attended, watch the video above.

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